By AA PATAWARAN
It’s more fun in the Philippines because we’re fun.
Filipinos are fun and that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes, we’re too fun. The future is uncertain, it’s okay, there’s a storm coming, it’s okay, the floodwaters are rising, it’s okay, bahala na si Batman, but right now we can drink to life, so why don’t we? Kampai!
It’s more fun in the Philippines because we believe in magic. We need not see it to believe it, so while much of that invisible power is perceived as evil—duwende, kapre, tikbalang, aswang, and manananggal, crossing paths with a black cat, a butterfly in the house, or anything that brings bad luck, including sweeping the floor at night—there is great good in heaven, which matters a great deal more, so we can mumble tabi-tabi po (excuse me) when we are in the woods or pissing on a tree or even cutting across a vacant lot lush with talahib in the city or tao-tao po (hello) when we knock on doors of houses that seem creepy.
I was in Paris on the day a sinking ship claimed over 300 lives off the coast of Cebu and one person died in a bombing incident at a McDonald’s branch outside of Paris, a Frenchman asked me, “One person dies in Paris and we are up in arms. Three hundred die in the Philippines and so far things look pretty okay. Why?”
How do you answer a question like that? So I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Well, I guess it’s because we believe so much in God. We have many questions on earth but we believe that all answers (including why ships sinking were an occurence quite common in those years in 1990s Philippines), we will find in heaven, eventually.”
It’s more fun in the Philippines because we can poke fun at life, especially when it is not going our way. We can laugh away our troubles. We can make light of our situation, dire as it might be. We can make jokes out of anything like our empty pockets, the terrible traffic, the fearsome floods, our double-dealing politicians, even our endangered islands on the West Philippine Sea. We have a lot of fun, even when we should be weeping or cussing or crying bloody murder.
It’s more fun in the Philippines because our nights go on forever. Whoever said that New York never slept had obviously never been to Manila. In Manila, unlike in New York, you can get beer at sunrise when you pull an all-nighter. Some clubs, at least the last time I was in a club, remain open as long as there is someone left dancing or drinking or hanging out. Oh and the streets are alive in the unholy hours, where night owls are still hooting, eyes wide open for fun. You want a 24-hour spa, you got it. You want a 24-hour place in which to dilute the alcohol in your system, in which to make up for a night of debauchery with some recovery meal out there, you got it. You want a big bowl of chicken soup (for the soul) with wolf berries, radish, some greens, and handpulled noodles, head down to Jing Ting at City of Dreams or white chicken with ginger dip or barbecued pork ribs at the L.Y.K. The lobby of the Peninsula Manila is open all hours of the day and night, if all you want is arroz caldo or a nightcap at 3 a.m. You want a movie after midnight, the Newport Mall Cinemas at Resorts World Manila is the place to go.
It’s more fun in the Philippines because we speak English. Or a little bit of Spanish. Or French, even if all we can say is oui. OK, maybe some of us eat our words, maybe some of us confuse our Ps with our Fs, and maybe a few of us, consulting a thesaurus cluelessly, might say “river“ when they mean water (to drink), #truestory, but we are interested. Because we are an archipelago of 7,641 islands separated by vast seas, roaring rivers, and great lakes, we are no stranger to, er, strange cultures or to strangeness per se. Our foreign relations did not start with our colonial experience. Before 1521, we had had centuries-worth of trade with Chinese, Indian, Arab, Malay, and other merchants. OK so maybe
sometimes we overdo it. Take us to Madrid and in six months, we should be saying “Diós mío!” like we were born on Calle de Tetuán just as Juan Gris was. Take us to London and in half the time we’d learn to drop our Ts and not to roll our Rs. We’d learn to speak the Queen’s English with the standard flourish. Take us to the Bronx and we’d be “flexin’ on the ‘gram like aye,” like Cardi B, okuuuuuuurt?
They often call it colonial thinking, maybe, or maybe it’s also because we love the world and we feel we have a place in it. That’s why there are Filipinos anywhere you go.
But it really is more fun in the Philippines.
Because the world can be at home in it.
Twitter and Instagram: @aapatawaran | Facebook: Arnel Patawaran